Saturday, May 18, 2013

Here comes the feeling you thought you'd forgotten

Ancient fingers on spage-age screens: someone's grandmother (great-grandmother, ancestor), her weathered face cragged and proud like the mountains of her country, hunches in her too-big coat lined with downy memories of colder days. Her feet scrape like gravel while her knot-jointed fingers skim with a surprising deftness along touchscreen technology. She is taking photographs of cherry blossoms - at once old and new, having bloomed and slept and bloomed for centuries, maybe as she has - on an impossibly sleek iPhone. It is not often you see generation gaps closed so easily when two eras rush to meet each other. After all, I am here, raising my eyes and arms in exactly the same way, my veins just beginning to consider the kind of transparency hers have earned.

My mind is a rabbit's warren best barricaded by distraction. I have been moving unrelentingly, mentally and physically, since I have been here. My days are long and my nights mostly quiet - a few hours with Adam, studying Korean, watching mindless shows - before trying my best to sleep. Weekends are time for devouring culture, winding our way through the subway to new discoveries, while reserving the mornings for reaching across oceans of internet to loved ones littered around the world. Because of this routine of bustle and motion, I had pushed down the unruly, mutable part of myself into a place where truer emotions and more dangerous thoughts could be safely tucked into restless sleep. This internal stonewalling works fairly well. With the exception of a few particularly self-aware minutes eroded into exposure by the vulnerability that comes just before falling asleep or waking up, the threat of release is reliably tempered. But with the thawing of spring came an end to this hibernation of the heart.

A few weeks ago, I was running my usual route and, as they usually had over the last few days, my favorite stand of cherry trees slowed my steps and drew me in. I intended to stop for only a moment; I had already taken dozens of photos of these familiar trees. Instead, something lengthened my pause. I sat at the base of one of many stark black trunks in the twin rows, following the lines of branches tapering overhead, bold rivers of night trickling into the pale of early morning. Here, sitting to catch my breath, the world caught me instead. Here, beauty broke a dam.

In that moment, under the trees, I felt everything. Every emotion, every joy, every pain, all the exuberance and grief and nameless churning I'd buried for months spilled out like the petals at my feet. I'd needed for numbness and dumb, mute strength to function in the face of the monumental upheaval I'd invited into my life with moving across the world, and under the canopy of pink, the numbness and strength just fell away. I cried. I cried, bursting back into feeling as I sat on the ground, surrounded by elderly women wearing baffled half-smiles. I cried in my stupid-bright blue running shoes with my stupid-bright blue waeguk eyes blazing in red rims. I cried knowing I and everyone and everything will die, yet these trees will outlive us without care or remembrance. I cried for everything. For, finally, the relief of release.

Gratefully emptied into silence, I looked up and let myself take in the fleeting sight of the blossoms. With their contrast of strength and fragility, delicately demanding attention, these cherry trees deserve all the glory and awe they get. Their beauty is soft and gently riotous - if fireworks didn't roar, but whispered. They are branches of angular shadow and sprawling lace, wading in the shallows of the sky. As I write this, they are gone, ghosts overtaken by the green of impatient summer. But I'll remember them - living briefly and dying with grace - and remember to let myself wake up, to balance the dark with the light, and be okay with the illusory lines often crossed by both. 

1 comment:

  1. Two thoughts: Letting out your strongest, deepest feelings is scary - and brave.
    The other -it's so hard to live in the present, even for the smallest amount of time. Love you, Mom